Article by Scott Blacklock, Lift News
After the Liberal government announced its plan to legalize marijuana, Britney Guerra wanted to get ahead of the action. But before she opened several illegal cannabis dispensaries in Hamilton, Ont. she told the Steeltown authorities all about it.
“Knowing that we were going to go full recreational, I had emailed the city multiple times and had many conversations with them about what was going to happen once this recreational store opened,” she tells Lift & Co. “If you’re in this industry, you shouldn’t be afraid of the police. Number one rule when you open a dispensary: you’re probably going to have some police interaction.”
Entrepreneurial pot peddlers across the province were opening illegal storefronts in 2016, selling weed right out in the open. While law enforcement efforts like Toronto’s Project Claudia temporarily squashed some of these stores with raids, nowhere in Ontario is the black market scene more booming and brazen than in Hamilton, where nearly 50 dispensaries elude total shutdown.
Hamilton marijuana dispensaries are packed-in like sardines, with a density that rivals Toronto (population: 2.8 million) despite claiming only a quarter of the population. While Ottawa has 17 dispensaries for 1.25 million people and London offers only three stores for 380,000 people, Hamilton’s 740,000 citizens can choose from at least 46 dispensaries, spanning one end of the city to the other.
“Hamilton’s really become the wild west of the dispensary scene in the east,” Guerra says.
The native Hamiltonian initially partnered with Vancouver-based Weeds Glass and Gifts to open the city’s first dispensary on March 24, 2016. Now called The Medicine Cabinet, it is the longest operating pot shop in the city, though it has had to hit the pause button after being raided. In November of 2016, she opened another dispensary–this time it was a franchise of BC-based Cannabis Culture.